If you just discovered this book because it's a best seller, you owe it to yourself to go back and read the first two books in the 39 Clues series, The Maze of Bones and One False Note, before starting this one so you'll know the background to this story and the contest to be the first to find all 39 clues.
Peter Lerangis takes the story in some new directions by changing the nature of cooperation among the various Cahills as they search for more clues. I found that adjusting the behaviors and attitudes added depth to the story so that it seemed more real.
As the book opens, Amy, Dan, their au pair Nellie, and their cat, Saladin, are racing to catch a plane to Japan. Amy and Dan are fighting over whether the swords that Dan packed in the luggage will survive security. When the youngsters are pulled out of line at the last minute, Amy and Dan fear the worst. But something even worse is about to happen!
And all this occurs by page 11.
More complications quickly ensue and Amy and Dan continue their trip while worrying that Nellie and Saladin may be in danger. Along the way, they get some unexpected help from another Cahill relative whom they have grown to distrust based on his habit of disappearing just as their lives are about to be snuffed out. While with this relative, they learn a lot about another part of the family line that connects into Japan.
The search for the next clue takes them into two very dangerous places where any number of things can (and will) go wrong.
The second great strength of this story is that it has lots of action, and reversals occur very quickly and completely . . . at the most opportune moments.
I find myself looking forward to each new book with increased interest. There's a pattern here, but it's a pleasant one. Dan acts like a jerk, but his remarkable memory helps turn up clues and their meanings when setbacks occur. Amy keeps a level head and helps avoid silly mistakes. The other relatives jump in and out of the story to display their character flaws.
I keep thinking of the Amazing Race as I read one of these books, but it's clear that the search for the 39 clues is ever so much more exciting than that often-predictable story of waiting in airports and sitting on long plane flights before making a brief dash for the next clue on the Amazing Race.
This story also leaves more mysteries up in the air than it resolves. As a result, I found myself more intrigued at the end than in the beginning. That's a well-planned plot!
Enjoy the dash for the third clue!!